, ἡ πόλις Βαρκέων
, Scyl., Eth. Βαρκαῖος
, Barcaeus; also in the form Βαρκαῖα
, Eth. Βαρκαιάτης
, Steph. B. sub voce
an inland city of Cyrenaica, founded by a body of seceders from Cyrene, under the Battiadae, Perseus, Zacyn-thus, Aristomedon, and Lycus, who were driven, by the treatment they received from their brother Arcesilaus II., king of Cyrene, to renounce their allegiance, and to establish this new city (about B.C. 554).
At the same time they induced the Libyans of the interior (τοὺς Λίβυας
) to join in their revolt, and from this cause, as well as from being founded in the midst of the Libyans, the city had from the first a Greco-Libyan character, which it always retained. (Hdt. 4.160
An indication of this Libyan element seems to be furnished by the name of the king Alazir (Hdt. 4.164
); and it is an interesting fact that nearly the same name, Aladdeir, occurs in an ancient genealogical table found at Cyrene. (Böckh, Corp. Inscr.
No. 5147, vol. iii. p. 523.)
Arcesilaus II. attempted to chastise his revolted Libyan subjects. They fled for refuge to the kindred tribes in the deserts on the east, towards Egypt, and, as Arcesilaus pursued them, they turned upon him and utterly defeated him, killing 7000 of his soldiers: soon after which he was strangled by his own brother Learchus.
The intestine troubles of Cyrene now gave the Barcaeans an opportunity of extending their power over the whole of the W. part of Cyrenaica, including the district on the coast (as far as Hesperides), where we find the important port of TEUCHIRA (aft. Arsinoë), belonging to them. If we are to trust traditions preserved by Servius (ad Virg. Aen.
4.42), they carried their arms on land far W. over the region of the Syrtes towards Carthage, and acquired such a maritime power as to defeat the Phoenicians in a naval battle.
The terror inspired by the Persian conquest of Egypt--induced the princes of Barca, as well as those of Cyrene, to send presents to Cambyses, and to promise an annual tribute; and in the subsequent constitution of the empire, they were reckoned as belonging to the satrapy of Egypt. (Hdt. 3.13
But meanwhile the rising power of Barca had received a disastrous overthrow.
In the conflicts of faction at Cyrene, Arcesilaus III. had fled to his father-in-law, Alazir, king of Barca; but certain exiles from Cyrene, uniting with a party of the Barcaeans, attacked both kings in the marketplace, and killed them. Upon this, Pheretima, the mother of Arcesilaus, one of those incarnations of female revenge whom history occasionally exhibits, applied for aid to Aryandes, who had been appointed satrap of Egypt by Cambyses, and retained the office under Dareius. Herodotus was doubtless right in supposing that Aryandes welcomed the opportunity which seemed to present itself, for effecting the conquest of Libya.
He collected a powerful army and fleet; but, before commencing hostilities he sent a herald to Barca, demanding to know who had slain Arcesilaus. The Barcaeans collectively took the act upon themselves, for that they had suffered many evils at his hands.
The desired pretext being thus gained, Aryandes despatched the expedition. (Hdt. 4.164
After a fruitless siege of nine months, during which the Barcaeans displayed skill equal to their courage, they were outwitted by a perfidious stratagem; the Persians obtained possession of the city, and gave over the inhabitants to the brutal revenge of Pheretima.
Those of the citizens who were supposed to have had most share in her son's death she impaled all round the circuit of the walls, on which she fixed as bosses the breasts of their wives.
The members of the family of the Baltiadae, and those who were clearly guiltless of the murder, were suffered to remain in the city.
The rest of the inhabitants were led into captivity by the Persians into Egypt, and were afterwards sent to Dareius, who settled them in a village of Bactria, which was still called Barca in the time of Herodotus (4.200
These events occurred about B.C. 510.
The tragic history of Barca would be incomplete without a mention of the fate of Pheretima. Returning with the Persian army to Egypt, she died there of a loathsome disease (ζῶσα γὰρ εὐλέων ἐχέζεσε
), “for thus,” adds the good old chronicler, “do men provoke the jealousy of the gods by the excessive indulgence of revenge” (4.205) : to which the modern historian adds another reflection, curiously illustrative of the different points of view [p. 1.378]
from which the same event may be contemplated:--“It will be recollected that in the veins of this savage woman the Libyan blood was intermixed with the Grecian. Political enmity in Greece Proper kills, but seldom, if ever, mutilates, or sheds the blood of women.” (Grote, History of Greece,
vol. iv. p. 66.)
We hear little more of Barca, till its political extinction was completed, under the Ptolemies, by the removal of the great body of its inhabitants to the new city of PTOLEMAIS
erected on the site of the former port of Barca. Indeed, the new city would seem to have received the name of the old one; for after this period the geographers speak of Barca and Ptolemais as identical. (Strab. xvii. p.837
; Plin. Nat. 5.5
; Steph. B. sub voce
Ptolemy, however, distinguishes them properly, placing Barca among the inland cities (4.4.11); a proof that, however decayed, the city still existed in the 2nd century of our era.
In fact, it long survived its more powerful rival, Cyrene. Under the later empire it was an episcopal see, and under the Arabs it seems (though some dispute this) to have risen to renewed importance, on account of its position on the route from Egypt to the western provinces of North Africa. (Edrisi, 3.3; Barth, Wanderungen,
&c. p. 405.) Meanwhile its name has survived to the present day in that of the district of which it was the capital, the province of Barca,
in the regency of Tripoli;
and it was transferred, under the Romans, to the turbulent Libyan people, who lived as nomads in that district. (BARCAEI: comp. Polyaen. 7.28
; Aen. Poliorc. 37.) The Barcaeans were celebrated for their race of horses; and a Greek writer repeats a traditionary boast that they had learnt the breeding of horses from Poseidon, and the use of the chariot from Athena. (Steph. B. sub voce
These were the horses which gained the last Arcesilaus of Cyrene his place in the poetry of Pindar.
The position of Barca is accurately described by Scylax (pp. 45, 46, Hudson), who places its harbour (λιμὴν ὁ κατὰ Βάρκην
) 500 stadia from Cyrene, and 620 from Hesperides, and the city itself 100 stadia from the sea, that is, by the most direct route, up a ravine, for the road is much longer.
It stood on the summit of the terraces which overlook the W. coast of the Greater Syrtis, in a plain which, though surrounded by the sands of the desert table-land (Desert of Barca
), is well watered, and beautifully fertile.
The plain is called El-Merjeh,
and the same name is often given to the ruins which mark the site of Barca, but the Arabs call them El-Medinah.
These ruins are very inconsiderable, which is at once accounted for by the recorded fact that the city was built of brick (Steph. B. sub voce
and, in all probability, unburnt brick. (Barth, p. 405.)
The few ruins which remain are supposed by Barth to belong to the Arab city, with the exception of those of the cisterns, on which this, like the other great cities of Africa,
|COIN OF BARCA.|
was entirely built, and of which three still remain. Eastward of the valley in which the city stands the route to Cyrene lies across the desert, and through a narrow defile, the difficulty of which may have been one cause of the ease with which the power of Barca appears to have been established. (Beechey, De la Cella, Pacho, Barth; comp. CYRENAICA
The above coin represents, on the obverse, the head of Ammon, and on the reverse the plant silphium, for the growth of which Cyrenaica was famous, with the legend ΒΑΡΚΑΙ
(Eckhel, vol. iv. p. 128.